For anyone that has ever run a DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS game, one of the major problems is the inevitable time that your players get off the beaten track into areas that you do not have prepared. For those dungeon masters who are caught unprepared and stuck running a game off-the-cuff, Wizards of the Coast brings us a most useful supplement, the BOOK OF CHALLENGES - a softcover collection of ingenious dungeon traps, puzzles and traps that lets dungeon masters have the option to flip to a page and have an entire area ready to go.
It also gives dungeon masters plenty of ideas to create their own insidious traps and puzzles, allowing you to drop them into prepared modules or your own handcrafted adventures. Written by a cadre of WOTC designers, including Daniel Kaufman, Gwendolyn Kestrel, Mike Selinker and Skip Williams, BOOK OF CHALLENGES has over twenty encounters listed in detail and ready to smite your characters.
The first section of the book details the rules used to create all the nefarious traps included and how to create your own. The suggestions contained give dungeon masters a "how to" in outsmarting even the most veteran gamers. After the short rules section, the book goes right into the twenty-two encounters, which are intelligently created and written up in detail. BOOK OF CHALLENGES uses the encounter level system (or ELs for short) for organizing the book; the ELs are the difficulty levels used for each room, trap or puzzle, and although a number is listed from one to twenty-two, they are all modified in each encounter to make them harder or easier.
Each one of these challenges uses monsters, traps and puzzles in new and different ways, keeping players off balance and using the characters' methods of problem solving against them. Without ruining any of these challenges, examples would be using the usual rickety rope bridge without the planks secured to the ropes (after all, who checks to see if wood is actually tied to a rope bridge, especially if they are being harried by a monster?).
Another example is the new and dangerous uses for common dungeon monsters such as an armed mimic or a character jumping to avoid one monster while falling into the waiting maw of another. The puzzles are of the new and dangerous variety, with common things such as wind being used to cause certain death for your favorite Paladin. Going into any more detail would ruin the potential surprises in store for the average adventuring band, especially if you have the knowledge that your dungeon master has purchased the BOOK OF CHALLENGES.
This new supplement has whatever a dungeon master needs to properly confound any adventuring party if you need an encounter on short notice. The book is 127 pages of black and white, however, and this is where a problem come into play. The artwork and maps are average at best, and although it is of a good length, the price ($21.95) is somewhat unreasonable for the format. If you are willing to fork over this somewhat large amount, the contents are a must-have for a veteran or rookie dungeon master.